Mark’s wonderful father Graham very sadly died two weeks ago. He had had Alzheimers for almost twenty years, and although his decline had initially been slow, for the past few years there was very little left of the dynamic personality that we knew and loved. Graham was an extraordinarily talented sportsman, he won the boys doubles at Junior Wimbledon, played rugby for Blackheath, and also was an extremely talented businessman. He was a great father, and the best possible grandfather. He gave his full enthusiasm and attention to everything from building sandcastles, to teaching the girls to swim, shoot, fish, row and of course play tennis. He was the life and soul of every party: he brought a completely new dimension to party games - most of these were not only intensely competitive, but also enormously physical - I quickly learned to put on track suit bottoms after dinner at the Lewis’s - in order to stand a fighting chance at Hi Cockalorum - which is actually leg wrestling. His illness and death has left a huge hole in our family, but we have some very, very good memories to share. He was lucky never to have to leave his beloved home with Mark’s sister Clare on hand to run the house and organise a dedicated team of carers.
Because Graham was so ill, I had decided not to go to Windsor, which turned out to be the right decision. I took the horses to the four day show at Pyecombe instead. We had a civilised start on Friday as Askeaton and Emma were both jumping in the Foxhunter/1.20. Askeaton jumped her customary great round, and Emma thoroughly enjoyed winning the 1.20 open. Heidi was placed in the Newcomers and I managed to have a complete head-fit in my over-excitement and take the wrong course on Kvint in the 1.30. On Saturday I had a very early start as the 1.30 was the first class. Once again Emma jumped a fabulous round to finish 3rd and Kvint finished just out of the money. Heidi jumped another clear round in the Newcomers and Askeaton jumped clear in the Foxhunter, both finishing just out of the money, but certainly the best day I’ve had for a long time. Sophie came down for the weekend to be with us as she was feeling a little sad about Graham, so I decided to skip Sunday at Pyecombe, giving the horses a day in the field, and myself a relaxing family day. We were off to Pyecombe again on Monday for another good day. Heidi was placed in the Newcomers, Askeaton jumped well in the Foxhunter and Emma was placed in the 1.30 with Kvint finishing just out of the money. This was the first show for absolutely ages where I have either won a class or finished with an, albeit small, profit. I am really thrilled with all the horses, the two younger horses are filling me with confidence now, Kvint jumped like an expert all weekend, and it was great fun to have Emma on good form again.
I had fantastic help at Pyecombe, with Camilla and Steff helping me on Friday and Monday, and April on Saturday. With a fantastic team of helpers it makes everything so easy, and the difference that a good team makes can be seen in having much better results.
After Pyecombe I had a quiet week, with the chance to catch up on some admin, especially for the Breen Equestrian Stallions. This is such a busy time of year for brood mare and stallion owners. It’s the first year that I have been involved in marketing the stallions for Shane and Chloe, and I think this is going to be a really exciting project as time goes on. They have such a lovely bunch of stallions from a wide pool of the world’s best breeding, and now this year’s foals have started arriving we’re able to see the progeny of the younger stallions. I’ve also been doing a lot of teaching. Now the sun is out everyone is polishing themselves up for the competition season. I was particularly thrilled that Kayleigh Grant won her first competition since I have been teaching her.
We had Anna to stay for the weekend of her due date, she looks so well and has done brilliantly, luckily the weekend passed without incident, as we are quite a long way away from the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. In fact the baby is still hanging on in there over a week late!
The past week has been anything but fun. Karen Ibberson’s poor Vinnie woke me up on Tuesday morning suffering from colic and despite very quick action from Cinder Hill Veterinary Clinic and an emergency trip to Liphook Equine Hospital we were all unable to save him. Vinnie was the most utterly charming horse, and we all loved him, Karen obviously more than anybody, so he has left a huge hole in her heart and and in the yard. A truly miserable day and a horrible reminder of how grateful we need to be for the days when things go right with these beautiful creatures. On Wednesday we had Graham’s funeral, we had a lovely thanksgiving service with beautiful hymns and readings, and Mark gave him a lovely eulogy. A fitting goodbye for a remarkable man. Anyone might think that we’d had nearly enough tears for one week, but sadly we had to say goodbye to our lovely little Pebbles the cat on Thursday. She had been struggling with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus for the past 11 months, and it had become clear that she didn’t need to struggle anymore. I hate these days, but I loved her, and she went peacefully while there was still a good flicker of good old Pebbles left in her.
Thank goodness we have had a very enjoyable weekend celebrating Sophie’s 30th birthday with a bunch of her friends from university, it’s been very good fun catching up with them. Still no sign of the baby, but by the time I blog again I will definitely be a Granny!
As always many thanks to the brilliant team here, Steff, Camilla, Mark and April, and to the professionals who are so vital to our team, Cinder Hill Equine Veterinary Clinic and Casserley & Sons Farriers. Also many thanks to my sponsors Saracen Horse Feeds, who have now launched Re-Covery Mash, specifically to help horses recover and rehydrate after a tough day - my horses are definitely very impressed with the taste and I think that this will soon become a feed-room/lorry essential for all serious competitors. Also many thanks to Precision Solutions for their excellent complete leg supplement, Just Equine for all the help they give me and MacWet Gloves for the very best gloves. I am really pleased that going forward I am going to be working with Connor Clennan from Integrum Nutrition. We have been looking at my eating, sleeping and exercise habits and I am positive that Connor will help me make changes to increase my strength and fitness, to maximise my performance and that of the horses and hopefully keep me in the sport for longer.